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G8: Keeping promises? A look at the Lough Erne Accountability Report
By Carolina Flores | Posted October 15th, 2013
This is the first part of a week long series looking at this summer's G8 summit. The G8 Summit was hosted by the UK government on 17-18 June at Lough Erne. One of the important products of this summit was the Lough Erne Accountability Report, a document detailing the progress the G8 have made towards their goals in nine key areas for world development, with a focus on the poorest countries: aid and aid effectiveness, economic development, health, water and sanitation, food security, education, governance,peace and security, and environment and energy.
The heads of government of the countries which form the G8 - the USA, the UK, Japan,Canada, France, Germany, Italy, and Russia - meet every year to discuss an agendarelevant to global development. All eight are in the top twelve countries with the highest gross domestic product, and the sum of their GDPs is about 60% of the world's total. For many, this makes them a symbol of concentration of capital and global injustice, and they have often been accused of not doing enough for international development. Because of their power and economic strength, these countries have huge potential to act upon the world's biggest problems - if they do choose to act, and do so effectively. In this context, accountability mechanisms are most welcome. They allow us to check the progress the G8 are making towards their own compromises, and to know the size of their contribution to important humanitarian goals. In short, they give us material on which to answer the question 'Are the G8 keeping their promises?'.
This is the second comprehensive accountability report on development goal G8 have produced since 2010. It covers the 56 development commitments present in that report, plus those agreed for inclusion in subsequent summits. In the majority of cases, countries are rated collectively, as most commitments have been made by the G8 as a group. Both quantitative and qualitative measures are employed. Whenever possible, the report uses the same data sources as previously (for example, the OECD or the United Nations), to maintain consistency.
In the past two decades, there has been great progress in eliminating global poverty: between 2000 and 2010, the percentage of the world's population living in global poverty fell from 34.1% to 20.6%. This doesn't mean that the G8 are doing enough. Massive problems remain - after all, over one in five people still live in extreme poverty. It is extremely unlikely that the first Millennium Development Goal - the eradication of global poverty by 2015 - will be reached. The progress in all the areas covered in the report is rated as satisfactory or good. In general, there has been an increase in funding, with more money pledged and delivered. Highlights include a 30% increase in official development aid between 2004 and 2012, the inclusion of considerations on aid efficiency, the commitment to donate $60 billion to fighting infection diseases and improving health systems between 2008 and 2012 (which was, in 2011, on track).
However, it is clear that progress has been insufficient in many areas. Some of the funding appears to have been directed into interventions of reduced effect, and some key areas lack funding. For example, only about a third of official development aid goes into low income countries, there are big funding shortfalls in education, and 1.1 billion people still lack access to basic sanitation. There clearly is scope for improvement in aid efficiency.
As an additional issue, the accuracy of the report has been questioned. The Overseas Development Issue (ODI) claims that the report:
- is overly generous in some key areas,
- fails to recognise negative trends,
- shows some inconsistencies,
- uses inadequate benchmarks,
- lacks benchmarks for individual countries, hiding the significant differences in performance,
- uses divergent reporting standards by different donors,
- fails to recognise incompatibilities between different G8 policies.
We will look at each area of the report in detail, starting with 'Aid and Effectiveness'.
Image courtesy of wikimedia.org
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